Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Black pepper is one of those multifaceted smells that create one expectation but suddenly emerge as something else. Expecting the rush of spice and heat, I took one whiff of Hermes Poivre Samarcande and immediately envisioned a scent of hot stones heated by the sun. It is a scent of a Japanese garden, capturing its simplicity of weathered stones amid the rippling sea of sand. The pepper vacillates between assuming woody and floral forms, all the while creating a sensation of dark, yet transparent warmth. Its initial rough edges are smoothed by undulating movements of warm dry cedarwood, slowly leading one from the sun and into the shade. The breath of vetiver, oakmoss and a whisper of cumin envelop the warmth of the composition further polishing the hot stones into the vision of radiant perfection.
Created for Hermèssence collection in 2005, Jean Claude Ellena’s signature is unmistakable, in the quiet opalescence of the composition and a warm skin undertone one finds in his other fragrances (Cartier Declaration and Frédéric Malle Cologne Bigarade, in particular, come to mind). On a man, Poivre Samarcande would be a clean, elegant scent, with a subtle sensual edge. It could definitely be worn by a woman, who enjoys dry fragrances, exploiting the affinity between woods and somber spices. Poivre Samarcande is one of my favorite fragrances for when I would like to take a break from the overt sensuality of white florals.
Photo: Japanese stone garden, from explorejapan.com.